We drove a Chevy Volt across the country, and then we took it apart.
Over a recent three-day period, EE Times, working with the benchmarking consultants Munro & Associates, tore down the car. Brian Fuller, editorial director of the EELife Community for EETimes, had been driving the Volt across the country and blogging about it on Drive for Innovation, a partnership between Design News parent company UBM and Avnet Express.
The objective of the teardown was to learn more about the engineering that went into the Volt's design internals. The three days it took to take the Volt apart produced 11 videos. We're going to present them in three separate articles. Below are the three videos of the teardown team in action during Day 1.
Our first video is a five-minute elapsed-time look at the deconstruction of the Volt.
The next two videos are short takes, in which Al Steier of Munro & Associates gives Brian Fuller his initial observations about what the teardown revealed and then shows the Volt's service disconnect plug.
Come back next week to see the four teardown videos from Day 2.
For an up-close look at the Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller took the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogged his way across the country.
At the end of the first video, when all the electronic modules are lined up side by side, it gives a real appreciation for the sheer volume of electronics in vehicles today, and in this vehicle, in particular. I'd be curious to know the total number of ECUs and microcontrollers. When we asked them during the rollout, GM said about 40 ECUs and 110 MCUs, but they were a little vague on those numbers. Also, those numbers really depend on how an ECU or MCU is defined.
Seeing the controller boards laid out and the complexity and size of the battery made me think about the folks servicing the Volt. Obviously, today's service professionals are a different breed than your traditional mechanic and need a whole lot more training in software (as Rob notes). But the battery technology muddies the waters even more. I'm curious if there is a whole new certification and training process for shops that can provide service for the Volt and other EVs or are you limited to just the dealership, which I assume has up-to-date training in the latest technologies?
My 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid has a select, specificially trained team that works on it for warranty service, inspection, etc.
I think that GM should have named this Volt after the old Chevy NoVa...doesn't go.. and doesn't go in the market place. Either that or rebadge it with the Fiero namebrand since that Pontiac vehicle was notorious for engine fires. Or, use the now abandoned Aveo name, as it signified the worst in its class for Chevy.
My vehicle cost $10,000 less that the Obavolt, I did not get a subsidy,although they did grease me with a declining tax credit (in order to get the full credit, which expired in March 2009, you would have had to buy the Ford Fusion Hybrid sight unseen, driver test undone as the local dealerships did not start getting them in until right around that deadline).
I'd buy it again, 3 years later. It is proof positive that Ford has punched their way out of the old Ford of the 70's when Toyota and Honda had their way due to overall arrogance and slothfulness in Detroit.
My signature Ford vehicle of that era that is the epitome of what went wrong with Ford? The 1976 Mercury Vomit, if you can imagine a worse driver experience let me know. I felt so bad for my Dad who owned one! I actually sold it years later to someone who absolutely sought it out becuase they told me they always liked the styling. ;-) Thus proving that there are as many useful idiots in the auto sector as there are for select people in DC.
All those controller boards would consern me as an owner because of the potential cost to repair it in the future. It looks like taking it to my locate mechanic would not be an option, so off to the very expencive dealer I would have to go. And as dealers will know that they are the only option, they will tend to charge even more.
I'm impressed, but it also scared the Hell out of me looking at all those printed boards, and components that I can not identify. I hope the warranty is good and there are companies that will offer extended. It's a whole new world for auto mechanics, and guys like me who do most of our own repairs might have a real problem on their hands. Keeping dealers honest durring repairs can also become an issue, I would hate to have purchased an $800.00 electronic component disguised as a fuse?
There is no warranty or part that will seem familiar to you your local garage and certainly your wallets. The cost of service and replacement parts will be for the foreseeable future very very expensive. You my fellow citizens are paying through your tax dollars with no say in any of it thousands per volt and you may never even own one. Private industry with investment capitol with great minds and brass will develop automotive technology that will make some one very rich by selling product at a fair price in volume. This has always worked and has made this country what it is. Let's continue.
No electric vehicle is ready for the mainstream markets. It is not a ready technology. Like anything ECO green or otherwise if it can not perform and function in the value perimeters as what we are now using for the same purpose then it needs far more work to be viable for the general public. A vehicle like the Volt would need to cost no more then 25k. It would need to go at least three hundred miles on a ten minute charge with all the usually accessories working. The performance should be in line with a 200 plus horse power relative torque V6 gasoline engine. The battery package needs to be replaceable for no more then $2000. This would make perfect sense for the general public. The car would simply sell like wild fire with those specs. I always said I would love to drive an all electric pick up truck. I would buy one in a heart beat if it had the same performance and value or greater then what I am driving now. The truth is they are not even close to releasing such criteria in the automotive market. For the foreseeable future it will be gas and diesel and we need to just get use to those facts. Stop the politics as we still need to function in a fossil fuel world and we certainly do have those rescores hear and now. If they can product the future sooner then later I am all for it but do not punish us because it hasn't been developed yet for the general public.
You guys have a point, but as a 30 year manufacture in the toy and hobby industry, I can remember saying the same things about electric model cars and aircraft for instance some 35 years ago. I too though it was ridiculous to charge a model that would fly or run underpowered at best for 30 minutes to get 4 minutes of play time. Never the less the purists proved us all wrong and kept pushing forward, and then came the lap top computers pushing the Lypo industry into a frenzy in turn making them smaller and more affordable and efficient.
Next the cell phone industry applying even more speed to research and development with small hand-held phones that were the size of building bricks only five years prior. Today it's a way of life and that same little battery that was once $100.00 is a throw-away and costs a few dollars at best.
This techknowlogy filtered into the hobby industry and has all but replace the once common nitro powered engine industry with small and efficient 3-phase motors that make two and three times the power when compared to the gas engines. Today you charge for 15 minutes and fly for 75% at power levels exceeding their gas counterpart, that's amazing to say the least. How about a consumer available R/C car from my friends at Traxxas that sells for only $500.00 that tops out at, get this, not scale speed but a true 100 MPH!
I am not a purest by no means, I a manufacture of those prehistoric gas engines because that's what I know. It has been right for me and my customers the past 30 years since my innovation into the industry, but that's doesn't mean it is the best and most efficient method forever. Of course I know electric is more efficient than fossile fuel, it's a simple fact or we would be powering our big trains by a driveline and transmission.
As primitive and expensive, and even inefficient as something such as the Chevy Volt is, it is necessary that we proceed full force and there are seats available for those who are interested. This can only do what the computer did for the telephone, and the telephone did for the hobby and toy industry, if we allow an industry to develop.
My ideas, concept, and products were laughed at 30 years ago by those that feared a new direction, and today it is the norm on a worldwide level. I have learned allot about concepts ideas, and how the average relate to them and shun them for reasons of fear of change, usually conceiled by excessive costs. I too fell into that catagory many times. I also know that one day soon, as much as I don't like to run electric model boats that make no noise that they will too become the norm. They will be quieter, faster, and easier to run, or simply "different" to only you and me reading this now.
If that day comes soon enough and I am still in my industry, I will probably move in that market direction, and those who worked excessivly hard, spent too much money on inefficient electric cars will more than likely be responsibile for why I will be able to market an affordable 100 MPH R/C large scale model boat.
To hold my ground for lack of knowledge, ego or reasons unknown would only make me a dinosaur, and you know what happed to the dinosaurs...
What may not be right for us today, may be normal for our Grandchildren tomorrow. Tony C.
I agree as long as private capitol is the sole source of design build. Private innovation. The government has not the constitution authorization in being in business of banker, designer, builder etc. etc. It may offer incentives as long as every dime is returned with interest. Something we where lied to about with both GM and Chrysler. We are not to invest. Investors invest and sometimes they lose and win. The government is not to be in that position. This also must be authorized by the people though Capitol Hill as by the congress and senate. You do not jump in as CEO of anything and fire/hire then dissociates the actual bond holder's divvy out the business as you see fit to unions and foreign interest as this administration has. We are to innovate in hopes we can overcome adversities with manufacturing for the betterment of all including the earth.
Amen to that! I got so caught up in my speach I strayed off track. There is nothing our government has invested in to my knowledge that functions like a business. I am in business because of my passion for what I do, but I still have a business because I make a profit. Our Government needs to learn what that means. They need to take in more than they spend. The day I screw up beyond what I am able to write a check to cover is my last day in business. There is no saving someone in my position, and if I screw up I deserve the penalties, even if that means closing my doors.
Our innovations came from passion to create a better mouse trap, private investors with a dream. I have always said you can not force progress, and that's just what our present government is trying to do. Take solar cells, they have been around for a long time and though they are better than they were when I was a kid in electronics, they are stiil not a viable power source solution on large level, and combined with the fact that we still don't have an efficient storage device, we are still many years away.
But instead our government, ( us ) lost billions in investing in solar cell techknowlogy that is now bankrupt, not because they won't work, but because money was thrown in too many directions with time restraints. Why don't they start with powering the White House 100% with Solar Cells and battery strorage, and when he looks out the window to see 100% of the grounds covered in glass panels, along with the roof, and even then they may not produce enough energy, then maybe they will understand the barriers we are faced with.
Progress is a progression over time not on a timeclock. My products are far better today then they were 30 years ago, why didn't I just make them like today back then? That's something that our politicians would probably ask me... If you don't know what end of a screwdriver to hold how in the Hell can you call the shots and direct those who do?
I wanted to start another business a few weeks back, after I closed a retail mall store that didn't make it. One of my son's I wanted involved asked me why I would do another business after loosing on one. Then he wanted me to make sure that if we started another it would make it. I looked at his mother first, then said maybe you need to get a government job. So where is are problems steming from these days?
How about all you manufactures continue to build EV's and anything else you think could solve our dependency issues, make them available to someone like me at a price I am willing to pay to be a test pilot. Then in the old fashion spirit of competition and wanting to be the best, make improvements until one day my Grand Daughter takes her children to the museam to show them what a combustion powered car looked like, and next to it may be the Chevy Volt refered to as one of the pioneers of the then norm.Hey there may even be an old Enforcer Boat there that Grandpa made?
I'm going to go to bat for plug-in hybrids here, even though I don't think they're ready for a large market yet. Plug-ins are a solid technology in need a price drop. For certain drivers -- particularly those who have short commutes that allow them to recharge every night -- plug-in hybrids may make sense in a few years because they allow for much of the driving to be purely electrical. Right now, it looks like the best way to lower the cost is to keep the battery relatively small, which means the all-electric range will be shorter, but it's a start. Pure electrics are another matter. I think they'll be niche vehicles for the foreseeable future.
Hm, I know that Hybrid cars work - have been driving one for many years (Prius of course) never had an issue with it, just change oil and pour in a little petrol.
Still, I think that pure electrics will be a "hot" market, if the suppliers can get their act together. Today the Leaf is about the most polished and affordable one, that is also why I see *several* Leafs on each of my commutes.
Note that reliable and functional EVs do not need to be expensive or complex, that is just a design decision so each manufacturer will make their own choices and in the end the public will cast their vote. The Leaf has a relative high feature level while the cars that come closer to glorified Golf Carts are extremely simple and can be expected to be much lower cost.
Just this last week I bought another EV truck (previously I had an S10, now a Ford Ranger) which is not a very complex vehicle, but has all the necessary features, from power steering, power brakes to (electric) heating and an Automatic Gearbox driven by a powerful GE electric motor. Since the motor controller is essentially a higher voltage version of a Forklift controller, you can find spare parts and have it serviced at a Forklift shop in case the controller has an issue.
Due to the higher voltage, the truck is freeway capable and in fact responds and operates much the same way as the ICE that was used as basis for conversion, the main difference is that you can commute silently and without tailpipe emissions. And fill up in your garage/driveway. And it costs about $3 in "fuel" to go 100 miles. Oh, and I bought it for $4000. No, it is not a new truck. I don't care about that.
Good points, cvandwater. I agree with all, especially when you say your new EV truck costs $4,000. That price can't be beat. But here's my reason for believing that pure EVs will be a niche: The range is still too limiting. Cars are typically designed for exceptional use, not average use. People who spend $40,000 for their vehicle will want it to make that exceptional trip of 100+ miles. That shouldn't be too much to ask of a new vehicle. With their reduced range, pure EVs might serve as a good second car (around-the-town car) if their pricetags weren't so high. The beauty of the plug-in hybrid is that it eliminates those issues.